Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacation Itinerary

As we'll soon be taking a glorious vacation all around Taiwan with my friend Jenny from home and won't be able to post for a while, I thought everyone would at least like to know a rough guideline of what we'll be doing and where we'll be going. Full updates, pictures, and excellent video footage are promised upon return!

Our (tentative) Itinerary:

Saturday-Wednesday: Taipei
*Of course, the main sights: 101 building, temples, and all the markets and old streets.
*Mountain tea house in Maokong overlooking the city at night
*Lots of restaurants and food, including a famous beef noodle house we have yet to try, and Yongkang Street- a long street featuring traditional Taiwanese food.
*River-tracing the JiaJiuLiao Stream to the natural rock-slide and swimming holes
*Taiwan Brewery Tour and Beer Bar.
*Shopping all over the city

Thursday p.m.-Monday a.m.: Makung/Penghu Island and the North Sea Islands
*We've booked a round-trip flight (45 minutes each way) to this beautiful archipelago off the coast of Taiwan. White-sand beaches, snorkeling, sea kayaking, whale watching, and visiting historic sites and temples are just a few of the things on the schedule for this trip. This area is also known for its impressive basalt structures that create beautiful statuesque scenery all over the islands. Penghu island is the main hub, and from there we'll take ferries and boat tours to the surrounding North Sea Islands.

Monday & Tuesday: Taipei again
*National Palace Museum, the famous building that (arguably) houses the largest collection of high-quality Chinese artifacts in the world.
*228 Peace Park- beautiful park and memorial to the 1947 anti-government uprising, called the 228 massacre, that ended in thousands of deaths and marked the start of the White Terror Period in Taiwan.
*Spicy Hot Pot dinner- Highly popular in Taiwan- cook your own meat and vegetables in a pot of spicy soup broth

Wednesday-Friday: Hualien, located on the mountainous east coast of Taiwan
*Since the islands trip will be our pampered, beach-laying vacation, we'll be camping and roughing it out a bit when we go to Hualien. We can rent a 4-person tent and necessary supplies for around 800NT (U.S. 25).
*The main attraction here is Taraoko Gorge National Park, one of the wonders of Asia. There are numerous hiking trails, sheer cliffs, the gorge that it is named after, dark caves and tunnels, waterfall walls, and breath-taking views.
*We'll try some of the highly recommended white-water rafting on a stretch of the river that leads to the ocean

*Goodbye dinner at our favorite restaurant and going out to the bars or clubs!

---These two weeks are going to fly by. Can't wait, wish us luck!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Picture This

(Post by Alisha)
Taipei is a great city- you will be walking in a maze of crumpling buildings and crowded sidewalks breathing in air from the incessant scooter traffic when suddenly you turn the corner to find a beautiful, spacious park. Here's a few pictures from Daan Park; it's filled with palm trees, plants, cobbled paths, and best of all, this pretty vined archway we found.
Our own city in Taipei County is slightly more humble, but has plenty to boast about as well. Because the MRT will soon be reaching Sanxia, probably around when we will be leaving, go figure, city development and architectural improvements are really on the up-swing. There's some new noodle restaurants and tea shops and a Hot Pot Restaurant with mini sharks swimming in a tank on display. We also recently got a Carrefour that's a short 15 minute walk from our place- it's slightly akin to a Walmart, and it's nice because it has some items that have been really hard to find or that we've had to travel far into the city for. Here are some pictures by a new stretch of classy apartments on our walk to the Carrefour. Below is a shot of Robert standing by these giant bamboo structures, homage to the beautiful bamboo that grows all over Taiwan, and a mosaic of the Zushi Temple downtown.
Lastly I have a picture of one of the giant snails that inhabit what I have dubbed as "cockroach alley." It's located at the bus stop we always get off on when coming back from Taipei, and it's the perfect environment for all sorts of creepy crawlies. Large shady trees, little pools, and fountains of water mean tons of cockroaches that never fail to make me leap in the air and ogre-sized snails that can get as big as your fist. We named this one Seymour.
Monday, August 3, 2009

Taiwan Images: Picture Collage

(Click on image to make larger)
Sunday, August 2, 2009

Graduation Preparation

(Post by Alisha)
Since Uncle Sam's is a kindergarten school, the entire months of July and August are spent rehearsing for an elaborate graduation ceremony for the K6 students that will be moving on from the school and attending their Chinese elementary school full-time. Many of the students will still come back for night classes, so it's mostly a lot of hype and show for the parents. (It's really fun to be a Taiwanese student... school year-round from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and some of them even get to go home to private tutoring. Joy. Oh, and let's not forget that you need to be able to play an instrument, so after you come home and do your homework you can practice until 11 at night.) Anyway, to commemorate this not-so-momentous event, all of the foreign teachers at our school were required to write a script for our homeroom classes (with a dance sequence) based on a well-known kid's movie. Each child needed several speaking roles and we had to find music, sound effects, and designate staging and lighting. Did I mention that my homeroom class is composed of ESL 3 and 4 year olds? This has been no easy task by any means, and we are all feeling the stress of trying to get kids to memorize lines they can barely read and learn actions, songs, and dancing on top of it.

Teacher Bacon is doing Willy Wonka with his class, the K4 Gorillas, and I am doing Finding Nemo with my K2 Dolphins. The end result will probably end up being cute and funny, but the pressure and expectations in the mean time are becoming a bit overwhelming. It's all over on August 22nd though, and after that my friend Jenny from the States is coming to visit. Bacon and I finally got our vacation time approved from the owner of the school, and we'll be taking two weeks off to tour the whole island of Taiwan. We plan on staying in Taipei for a few days and then venturing down South and maybe even to a small island off of the coast! The image of us snorkeling and laying on white-sand beaches is what is going to get us through these next few weeks...

*Below is a drawing by one of my students of Teacher Bacon and I. The orange spot above us is a "fire so hot" that is coming to get us. I think it's a pretty accurate representation of us. Notice how Bacon is wearing a dress-like outfit and has only four hairs. My arms are rather disproportionate, but given the age of the artist, 4, I think I can let that slide :)

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